Scrapping free parking could be 'final straw' for businesses

A town council has protested against proposals by North Somerset Council to introduce parking charges - with one figure claiming how scrapping free parking could be the "final straw" for businesses. North Somerset Council recently launched the consultation on the Parking Management Strategy and Action Plan as the local authority tries to plug a central Government funding gap, but also help maintain and improve its car parks.

The consultation, which runs until May 7, states charges could be introduced in Clevedon, Nailsea and Portishead. Nailsea Town Council believed they "do not see how the strategy meets the current and future needs of Nailsea", supports the local economy or challenges of the climate emergency.

Councillors fear the parking charges will "unlikely to be self-funding" and car park users will look elsewhere to park such as Crown Glass Shopping Centre, Waitrose and Tesco car parks. A spokesman for Nailsea Town Council said: "The income from parking charges will not cover the ongoing costs for such a scheme, nor touch the costs of making improvements to Clevedon Road or Station Road. Going forward, Nailsea residents could be subsidising a scheme, which they did not support in the first place."

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Figures believe the town doesn't have an issue with congestion or air pollution but fear the introduction of parking charges is "anticipated to lead to congestion, as people will park in residential areas, narrowing roads and are therefore restricting access."

A spokesman added: "The potential impacts are negative for businesses as employees will struggle to find free parking and there is a lack of viable public transport in Nailsea to use as an alternative. Visitors, including shoppers, will park in the remaining free-to-use car parks in the town or will take their business to out-of-town shopping centres, which offer free parking.

"This loss of customers will affect Nailsea businesses greatly. The lack of trade could eventually lead to businesses failing and the closure of town centre shops and businesses, as a result. Businesses may relocate out of Nailsea to accommodate employee and customer parking."

Cllr Anita Smith, Chair of Nailsea Town Council, said: "According to NSC, local businesses outside of Weston-super-Mare and residents have been calling for measures to improve the way parking is managed to support local economies and town centres and improve amenities for residents.

"In fact, the feedback the Town Council has received is quite contrary to this viewpoint. These proposals will not support local economies nor will they improve amenities for residents; quite the opposite in fact.

"These proposals could be the final straw for many traders in the town centre recovering from a cost of living crisis and Covid, so they should be abandoned by NSC. We strongly urge NSC to give up this unpopular plan to tax the motorist to fund other services as it is regressive and unfair, affecting those on low incomes the worst.

"We urge them instead to focus on supporting the town centre traders by advertising and capitalising on the Unique Selling Point (USP) of free parking encouraging people to shop locally instead."

Residents can have their say on consultation

The consultation asks residents about proposed parking charges, as well as plans for a new short-stay parking permit. The council hope the short-stay permit would "promote local shopping and benefit business and the economy."

Among the questions asked, residents are asked where parking charges should be applicable, how much they would realistically pay to park, whether they would use a parking smartphone app

Consultation feedback will be used to help the council understand how people park now and what parking charge prices, locations and hours of operation could look like. It will also help set the terms of any annual short-stay permit. Business owners are also being encouraged to comment on how parking charges could impact their business and staff.

Councillor Hannah Young, Executive Member for Highways and Transport at North Somerset Council, said: "We know that people have lots of different views on these proposals, so whether you are a resident, a visitor, business or anyone else who parks in these areas, it’s important we hear from you.

"At the end of the consultation period, we’ll analyse your feedback and use it to help shape the detail of the parking proposals. North Somerset Council’s Executive will then consider whether to take the proposals further later in the year.

"We understand that these proposals ask something extra of residents when they are facing financial pressures and feeling the squeeze. Like all councils across the country, North Somerset Council is facing unprecedented demand for services at a time of rising costs so has to make financial savings to cover a £50 million funding gap over the four years to 2028.

"It’s in response to these same financial pressures that many local authorities, including neighbours in Somerset and Bath & North East Somerset, have introduced parking charges.

"It is hoped that the parking charges could help cover the council’s costs of funding the maintenance and operation of our car parks, along with improved enforcement of on-street parking restrictions. We also hope that they can encourage more people to make shorter journeys sustainably, travelling by bike or on foot.

"Consultation is open until midday Tuesday 7 May 2024 and we are holding drop-in information events over the coming weeks, so please do get involved and tell us what you think."

Residents can share their thoughts through the online questionnaire through this link. North Somerset Council adds consultation responses will only be considered if they are received using our public consultation questionnaire.